Fort Liberty, N.C – Capt. David Liu was no stranger to the adrenaline rush that surged through his veins as he leaped out of the airplane into the abyss below. As the eighth jumper from the right door, he had completed countless jumps before – each one a dance with gravity that tested his training, precision, and courage.
The cold wind roared in his ears on May 4, 2023, as he plummeted towards the ground, the vast expanse of the Sicily Drop Zone stretching out beneath him. It was during the crucial moments of gathering his equipment after a seemingly routine landing that he spotted a parachute reinflating nearby, setting off a chain of events that would underline the importance of vigilance, quick thinking, and the spirit of camaraderie that defines the U.S. Army.
As the parachute reinflated nearby, he initially assumed a fellow paratrooper had lost control of their parachute. He soon realized a body was being dragged beneath it.
While reflecting on the harrowing experience, Liu said, "I knew right away it wasn't right, and I had to act." He reiterated the importance of being vigilant during such operations and said the training provided by the Army allowed for him to provide an immediate and effective response.
Rushing to the scene, Liu identified the unconscious paratrooper as Pfc. Daylane Cruz, a religious affairs specialist with XVIII Airborne Corps. He tackled her to stop her from being dragged farther, removing the tension on her neck from the parachute's riser, and activated her canopy release assemblies.
Liu repeatedly and loudly called for a medic, while Cruz slowly regained consciousness and began responding to basic questions. She was later evacuated to Womack Army Medical Center.
“I suffered a concussion,” said Cruz as she recounted the event. “I recall falling, getting off the plane, and starting to lead, but after that – my memory fades. I don't recall the fall, just looking up and seeing things. Captain Liu was with me. I was apparently able to walk to the emergency vehicle and they took me to the hospital.”
With the help of consistent physical therapy, and Cruz’s awesome display of resiliency, she has made significant improvements in her recovery. Her neck, which was severely injured, has begun to feel better.
“Always look out for one another,” Cruz said. It's not just about your own readiness, but also about the readiness and safety of the Soldiers jumping with you. I am grateful for the help I received. If it weren't for him [Cpt. Liu], I don’t know what might have happened.”
Liu, a native of Maplewood, Minnesota, has been hailed for his quick thinking and swift action that saved a fellow Soldier's life. His situational awareness, expertise, and judgment during the harrowing incident has set an example for all Soldiers.